Pants! Thank You, Hillary Matzinger



In tenth grade, Hillary Matzinger walked into my English class wearing jeans. No girl wore pants to Towson High School, much less jeans. Mrs. Rhydburg turned Hillary into the office. I’ve wondered to this day why our teacher, younger and a woman herself, felt the need to rat on Hillary.

I don’t remember what transpired next, but by the end of the week, more girls wore pants to school. Soon I did.Thanks to my mom for having no objections.  (Although she did finally hide the baggy blue work shirts I took to wearing with my jeans.)

Our bus stops in Baltimore were freezing cold in the winter. It’s shocking to me now that anyone forced girls to wait for the bus when they were wearing skirts. Even heavy tights couldn’t block the wind.


On to Helen Hulick, in the photo above. In 1938, Helen wore pants to court, was sent away, and returned another day wearing pants again. She was a 28-year-old kindergarten teacher who had witnessed a burglary. On her second court appearance, Helen was taken to jail and put in a prison dress. Although she was sentenced to a five day stay, she was released later that day.

Hundreds wrote letters in defense of Helen’s right to wear pants.  You can read more of the story here.

Thank you Hillary and thank you Helen, for giving a kick in the pants to the powers that be!

Thanks, too, to Amelia Bloomer, who gave  bloomer-like outfits attention in the press in the mid-1880s. Read about Amelia here.


What about you? When did you first wear pants to school?

Read more about the history of women and pants here.

26 responses »

  1. In January 1971 the rule changed- we could wear dress pants to school. By The next September we all wore bell bottom jeans. I worked at McDonalds in 1972- the uniform was a gold dress with a sailor collar and tie.

  2. Interesting!! Because I grew up overseas the rules were a little different. But I remember loving pants. Mini skirts were so hard to wear. We had a lot of steps to climb! I would hold my books in one hand and hold my skirt down with the other. I love pants!!

  3. I didn’t wear pants until college, and even there, in 1968, we had to wear skirts to dinner; it was called “gracious dining.” In the fall of 1969, the dining halls became co-ed, I moved into the formerly all men’s quad,and most rules got tossed out. What a difference a year made. I went through a brief period of wearing painter’s overalls, but mostly it was blue jeans or “cords” (corduroy)…comfort was key.

  4. Growing up in MA during the winter taking public transportation, if the bus would stop to school, I remember my legs being beat red than itch when arrived to HS. The rule changed to OK pants in 1970 at my HS.

  5. Yay for Hillary! Any infraction at my high school immediately got you an “invitation” to see the principal. I doubt your teacher had a choice in the matter. I hated having to wear dresses, esp in the winter. I couldn’t wear pants until college and the first year even my college demanded dresses on Sunday and if you were taking any mode of transportation. Stupid restrictions.

  6. Barbara, do you remember our principal saying on the intercom that we could wear pants to school but if we did, we were “showing disrespect” to our selves and our school?

  7. When I was growing up here in the UK in the 1960s and 1970s, almost all schools required girls to wear skirts or dresses rather than trousers. My secondary school had a very old fashioned (and strictly applied) uniform policy. Skirts had to be knee length (which the Headmistress would check by making you kneel down to check whether your skirt touched the floor), tights were not allowed (ankle socks in summer and knee length in winter – not fun for those of us who had to cycle to school) and berets. Amazing as it seems now, even our underwear was governed by the uniform policy – navy blue ‘gym’ style knickers!

    At weekends it was a different matter; I was a bit of a tomboy and wore blue jeans unless we were going to visit somewhere that called for ‘Sunday best’.

  8. Hi, Barb!
    We watched a program recently about country music star Patsy Kline. She liked to wear pants. She wore them on her first appearance on the Grand Old Opry in the mid-60’s. Raised a lot of eyebrows, but I don’t believe they made her leave.

  9. Good, fun post. I wore skirts and dresses with tights and in the winter wore heavy leggings over the tights that had to be taken off in school. By high school (early ’70s) we were able to wear corduroys- but not jeans. My daughter can’t believe it..

    • I remember the principal at the Catholic school were I worked in Pittsburgh in 1978 trying to explain to a Vietnamese mother that the kids could wear pants but not blue jeans. The mom kept asking in broken English. “What is wrong with color blue?”

  10. I love wearing pants! Thanks to all of the ground-breaking ladies who made this all possible. I truly only wear skirts, dresses as infrequently as I can (weddings, celebratory banquets, etc.)! Somehow, I just feel more relaxed, comfortable and carefree in pants. So, if necessary, I dress them up “a la” a favorite designer style for the evening. Never was a “tomboy” so to speak, but always, always, happy and comfortable in pants! Upon looking at your post, I was thinking that we were able to wear blue jeans at my high school, senior year or so, but then realized, I too, suffered with skirts in the icy cold weather (at least we were allowed to wear tights) until I left for college! Unfair! My boyfriend not only wore blue jeans to school, but those crazy fringed moccasins (same time period!)

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